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Last week’s Children’s Miracle Network Classic was not only the conclusion of the 2009 PGA Tour season but perhaps also that of an era. It marks the death of the U groove since starting next year in Hawaii, professional players will be forced to adopt V grooves in their irons. While the PGA Tour and the other worldwide professional tours are inhabited by independent contractors, the reality is that they are told what they can and can’t do with regard to many different subjects. For example, in the real world most non-employees are not subject to random drug testing. However, the ruling bodies in golf, the R&A and USGA, determined the U groove needed to be outlawed and replaced by a slim down version,which resembles a V.
The purpose behind this condition of competition rule going into effect is the intension of placing an emphasis on accuracy. Its believed that players will lose a significant amount of spin on their golf ball when playing from the rough. However, they can expect similar spin rates versus the U groove configuration when playing from the fairways. Its indirectly an attack on the bomb and gouge style that is or was, played on the professional tours. The term refers to players who hit driver as far as possible off the tee with regularity and then a short iron to wedge from whatever lie they find from their tee shot.
Stephen Ames won the final event of the PGA Tour Fall Series. By now that is considered old news, but what a lot of people don’t know is that Ames won using the 2010 grooves in his irons.
“I've actually already changed my grooves to next year's grooves,” he said “(And) I'm winning with these grooves in the bag.”
Ames stats at Disney, last week, indicate the groove fuss didn’t interfere with his march towards the winner’s circle. His driving accuracy was 67.9%, which was tied for 31st overall. He hit 73.6% of greens in regulation, which was a tie for 27th in the field. His putter proved to be the greatest of equalizers as he averaged 27.3 putts per round, which ranked him in a tie for 6th overall. So despite missing fairways, Ames still found the putting surface with regularity and his Nike prototype METHOD putter delivered when it counted the most.
The Disney event was the last official PGA Tour tournament where players could use U grooves and some if not most players did. Its unclear how many in the field used V grooves like Ames, but the results, it would seem, would imply the U grooves didn’t represent a clear cut advantage to those who employed them.
The first data point in what might become a trend implies the rule change will have little or no effect on the end result over who ultimately wins. It may force some or all players to alter their strategy in approaching a golf course, but beyond that its still unknown whether the rule was necessary. For the record, Ames’, (a multiple winner on the PGA Tour prior to last week) winning score was 18 under par. The 2008 Children’s Miracle Network Classic victor, Davis Love III, won posting a score of 25 under par.
Meanwhile on the other side of the world, last week, Tiger Woods won the Australian Masters in electrifying fashion. Woods has publicly stated that he has been using V grooves in his irons for quite some time, other than the two wedges he carries. The world’s #1 player, despite coming back from reconstruction knee surgery, won six times on the PGA Tour in 2009 before heading to Oz for another W. The data points appear to be growing thus implying the more things change, the more they will stay the same.